May 31, 2013

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Viewing family life through the lens of the Trinity

Sean GallagherThe realities that are most important to us are often the hardest to understand.

Take love, for example. If you who are married are asked why you love your spouse, you might give various reasons. Then you realize how inadequate your explanation is. Your love for your spouse just can’t be explained through logic.

We come closer to the mark by using analogies. Shakespeare likened love to a star that guides wandering boats and to a fever that feeds on what keeps it going instead of the medicine that would cure it.

Theologians have also used analogies to try to pierce the mystery of God. This has especially been the case with the central belief of the Trinity—that the one God is a communion of three persons, Father, Son and Spirit.

The Church celebrated this belief last week on Trinity Sunday.

The comparisons that have been made to help us understand the Trinity are helpful to varying degrees. St. Patrick is said to have used a shamrock to explain the Trinity to the people of Ireland in his missionary preaching there.

St. Augustine used a psychological approach, saying that the Trinity is like a person’s mind with a thought understanding itself and the love that flows from that knowledge of itself.

On the other hand, theological writers, recognizing the importance of the belief in the Trinity to Christianity, since it speaks to the very nature of God, have sought to relate other aspects of the life of faith to this belief. They do this because we also believe that Christians, by faith and grace, share in the very life of God. This, in turn, helps make beliefs like the Trinity, that can otherwise seem abstract and disconnected from daily life, more tangible and relevant.

Scott Hahn, a contemporary Catholic theologian, has looked at family life through the lens of the Trinity. He starts with a traditional explanation of the Trinity, that the mutual love of God the Father and God the Son for each other is so great that this love is itself its own person, the Holy Spirit.

Then he applies that to the family, with the mutual love of the husband and wife being “so real that, nine months later, they give it a name.”

It’s an approach that has helped my wife, Cindy, and I spiritually deepen our marriage as we have welcomed our four sons into the world.

At the same time, we know that this analogy is imperfect. Married couples who struggle with infertility could find this analogy troubling. And Cindy and I confronted its limits last fall when we experienced a miscarriage

But in our sorrow, our faith in the presence of God in our marriage persevered, and we continued to be open to the gift of life—a gift that I am happy to say that God has blessed us with. We expect the birth of our child in September.

Because of last fall’s miscarriage, Cindy and I have been praying that God might protect our child and bring him or her to a safe birth. Your prayers in this regard would be appreciated.

Pray also for married couples who yearn to be able to “give a name” to their love, but are prevented from doing so because of infertility. Pray, too, for couples who have experienced miscarriages or infant loss, and had little or no chance to hold the child that manifested their love.

Finally, pray for a renewed appreciation of marriage, the family and that the gift of life might be better respected in our troubled society. If this renewal spreads from married couple to married couple, our human family will more and more resemble the triune family that is God. †

Local site Links: